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February 1, 2009

Is Kentucky Really At Risk?

Here are just a few of the hazards that we could face here in the state of Kentucky. This information is taken from the Kentucky Department of Health and Family Services web site.

Hazards you should be aware of:

Earthquakes – The state has a number of primary geological faults with high risk of minor earthquake activity that could disrupt natural gas and petroleum pipelines.

Transportation and hazardous materials accidents – The extensive transportation routes crisscrossing the state raise the risk of transportation and hazardous materials accidents. Such accidents can originate from materials in transportation, industrial, residential, commercial or agricultural use – and seriously compromise the quality of air, ground or water.

Release of Chemical and Radioactive Agents – Chemical weapons are stockpiled at the Blue Grass Army Depot in Madison County; uranium is stored at another location; the state is home to two major military sites. And, although the state is not seen to be a primary target for a nuclear event, it could be affected by radioactive fallout from an attack on another part of the country.

Influenza Pandemic – National and international health experts worry that a new, more virulent strain of flu could cause mass illness and death. SARS and monkey pox are recent examples of the kinds of ever-present potential health hazards.

No matter what kind of emergency may occur – a natural disaster or a terrorist event – all Kentucky residents need to take steps NOW to prepare themselves and their families for any type of emergency. Ask yourself: If water, gas, electricity and phone service were cut off today (recall recent ice storms and tornados) – are you ready to respond? Disaster strikes without warning. It can force you to evacuate your residence – or confine you to staying inside.
This is why experts cannot emphasize enough the importance of having a plan. Familiarize yourself and your family with the emergency plans of the areas in which you live and work – and with your children’s school emergency procedures. Know your hospitals and plan ahead how you and your family members will get home if area transportation systems or routes are shut down.
A Family Emergency Plan
• Contact your local public health and emergency management offices for information on the types of disasters that might occur in your area – and how to prepare for them. Ask, too, about their emergency plans and how they will be implemented if needed.

• Know the Homeland Security Advisory System and risk levels :
-Green – Low
-Blue – Guarded
-Yellow – Elevated
-Orange – High
-Red – Severe
Go to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s web site for excellent information about emergency plans.
The American Red Cross has guidelines on how to respond to emergencies. Details are accessible by calling your local Red Cross Chapter or online here. At a minimum; write out a family emergency plan that includes basic information on how you and your family can protect yourselves during a public health emergency. Review and update when needed. For a template of a family emergency plan, click on the Family Disaster Plan Checklist. Develop an emergency communication plan in case family members are separated during a disaster. Separation is a real possibility during the day when children are at school and parents are at work. Know your school’s plan to protect your child and communicate with you in an emergency. Decide where children will go if parents can’t get home.

• Prepare a list of contact information for each family member. Include: Hospitals close to home, school or work. Family physicians and dentists. Local and out-of-town emergency contacts. Local Public Health Department. Poison Control Center.

• Ask your employer if there is an emergency plan for your workplace and incorporate it into your personal plan. Identify a local contact person and an out-of-town contact person – consider an out-of-state contact person as it may be easier to call out of state during an emergency than in the local area, especially if phone systems are overloaded. Your contact person should be a friend or relative that all family members can call if separated. This allows each family member to check in for news of the others. Click on the Family Emergency Phone Numbers.

• Plan how you can “shelter in place” should there be contaminated air outside. Choose an interior room or one with as few doors and windows as possible. If you see debris in the air or learn from authorities that the air is contaminated, bring family and pets inside, lock doors, close windows, air vents and fireplace dampers. Immediately turn off all air conditioning, forced air heating systems, exhaust fans and clothes dryers. Seal windows, doors and vents with plastic sheeting and duct tape. Watch TV, listen to the radio or check the Internet for instructions.

• Become familiar with evacuation/escape routes in your community. However, during an incident, stay where you are unless directed by authorities to evacuate.

• Identify a location outside your neighborhood where your family can meet if your home is affected or the area is evacuated.

• Gather health information on each family member – include immunization history, blood type, allergies, current medication, past and current medical conditions and the ages and weights of children.

• Develop a plan for pets and service animals. Pets may not be admitted to public shelters.

• Have a “get away” plan with alternative routes. If you have a car, keep half a tank of gas in it at all times. If you do not have a car, plan how you will leave if you have to. When you leave, take your emergency supply kit and lock the door behind you. If you think the air is contaminated, drive with windows and vents closed, the air conditioner and heater turned off. Listen to the radio for instructions.

• Meet with neighbors to discuss disaster preparedness – find out who has special skills and who have special needs such as the elderly or the disabled. Talk to one another about how you can work together.

• Visit the Kentucky Preppers Network often to stay informed on threats and preparedness news.